Guest Post by Derek Valentine
Take a break from the sales and give the Round-Up a read:
- ABC Channel 9 in Sioux City reports on a US Justice Department inquiry into the proposed siting of Our Savior Lutheran Church in a former Budweiser warehouse in the City of Norfolk, Nebraska. The City maintains that churches are not allowed in industrial zones and fears that the church would be in conflict with existing industrial uses in the area. The Church is frustrated that the City refuses to engage in a dialogue. The City has 30 days to submit the details of basis for the zoning denial for review by the US Justice Department.
- In Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a federal judge has upheld a discrimination lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice against the Township of Bensalem, denying the Township’s motion to dismiss the case. Philly Voice reports that Bensalem Masjid was denied a variance to construct a mosque on parcels zoned for residential and business professional uses, citing concerns about the size of the mosque, parking, and membership growth. Bensalem Masjid responded by reducing the size of the project, adding parking, and offering a Friday afternoon prayer service. The US Department of Justice alleges that variance requests were approved for various other religious institutions, but not for Bensalem Masjid.
- In rural San Martin, California, some residents are outraged over a proposed 105,546 square-foot mosque, as reported by the Daily Intelligencer. The mosque is proposed in a “Special Plan Area,” which was instituted to limit development and preserve agriculture and rural character. Those opposing the mosque are concerned about groundwater contamination from a “green cemetery” and question whether the use is “local serving” as mandated by the ordinance.
- Church leaders and village officials are going head-to-head in Antioch, Illinois, reports the Daily Herald. Saint Ignatius Episcopal Church is operating a resale shop that the Village claims is not consistent with the residential zoning in the neighborhood. The Village has filed an injunction arguing that in addition to zoning noncompliance, the facility has inadequate handicapped-accessible restrooms. The Church points to a 60 year-old agreement between the Church and the Village stating that all buildings on the 5.1-acre parcel are part of the overall ministry, and not subject to the zoning use restrictions.
- A group of churches filed suit against Massachusetts officials based on the enforcement of the public accommodation law. The law, as interpreted by the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and Attorney General Maura Healy requires the churches to allow the use of bathrooms and other “intimate areas” based on gender identity and not biological sex.